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Critical shortage of type-O blood at Stanford Blood Center

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Citing a severe and ongoing shortage of type-O blood due to high usage at local hospitals, the Stanford Blood Center (SBC) is reaching out to both its current dedicated group of donors and to all Bay Area residents to donate blood as soon as possible.

The SBC, which delivers blood products including plasma and red blood cells to five local hospitals, urges locals with type O+ or O- blood to make walk-in appointments at SBC locations in Menlo Park, Campbell and Mountain View this week to alleviate shortages that were officially declared critical in an SBC meeting Thursday morning.

In a May 14 press release, SBC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tho Pham said that exceptional demand for O blood in recent days due to heart and liver transplants and trauma incidents had caused imbalances to cross the threshold from “immediate need” to “critical need,” the most acute level of crisis.

“Last week alone, patients at our local partner hospitals required more the 1,000 units of red blood cells, including over 170 units of O- red blood cells (RBCs),” Pham wrote. “In addition, we supported multiple heart and liver transplant patients who required approximately 125 units of O+ RBCs, as well as emergent and trauma patients who used more than 50 units of RBCs.”

Because those with type-O blood cannot accept blood with A or B antibodies, shortages of O blood can be especially dangerous.

“When we’re sending out more blood products than we are taking in due to high need at our partner hospitals, we reach out to our current, dedicated group of donors as well as the larger community to help replenish the blood supply to sustainable levels,” said SBC spokesman Ross Coyle. “All it takes is about an hour of your time, and you can help save the lives of up to three patients with a single donation.”

On Friday, Stanford students heeded this call, turning out to two blood drives at SBC bloodmobiles — one at White Plaza and one at Lagunita near the Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center. Eligible students filled out forms and donated in less than an hour.

At the same time, the SBC’s outreach to the media and its dedicated donors resulted in increased blood donation at all of its three locations. SBC Collections Manager Renee Gibson, who as at the South Bay location on Saturday, told The Daily that it was “very busy” — “There were donors in there that were responding to the donor outreach — which is wonderful. But we still have a while to go.”

The situation is still officially critical and many more must donate this week to replenish supplies to sustainable levels.

While SBC has faced shortages before, SBC has faith in a committed network of local donors and increased media outreach.

“We have had shortages in the past. This one is a specific critical need, but we have the same strategies,” Gibson said.

Contact Cooper Veit at cveit ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Cooper Veit '22 is a local news writer and amateur Steinbeck scholar from San Francisco. Talk to him about the work and life of John Steinbeck.